On December 15th, 2011, the world lost one of the most brilliant minds of our time. Christopher Hitchens, noted secularist, atheist and literary genius, passed away from cancer. Hitchens, an Oxford alumnus, for those of you under a rock, was a brilliant debater, a genius author, a “devout” atheist, and a man for whom too much can be said, both positive and negative. A contributor to Vanity Fair, Slate, Atlantic Monthly and a magazine called “Free Inquiry”, his literary influence is far reaching and his writing itself is as profound as it is entertaining.
My first real taste of Christopher was when I was emailed a video entitled, “Christopher Hitchens debates Alistair McGrath, Religion: Poison or Cure?” from Fora.TV. Being an atheist, I of course checked it out. What I saw of the debate, made me ask myself what it was about him that made him so entertaining. Of course there was his biting wit; the educated musings of an elegant mind which were displayed for all to see. I saw in him a love of language, and a love of freedom, coupled with a complete and utter distaste for group thought and religious “totalitarianism”. I immediately downloaded the video and burned it to DVD so that I could watch it again and again. It remains one of my favorite debates (and spoken word audio having ripped it to mp3) and really shows the man’s elegance in full.
After hearing about his death, the first question popped into my mind which has yet to be answered.
“Who shall replace him? Who shall carry on the legacy of the man?”
One would think about his “musketeers”, Professor Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, filling the void left by his death. Both men, while being excellent authorities in their respective fields of evolutionary biology and neuroscience, and while also being extremely articulate in their arguments against religion, are nonetheless not charismatic enough to catch the attention of anyone who is not looking for intelligent debate. Hitchens appealed to not only the intelligentsia, he appealed to the shit talker in all of us. He indulged in the kind of debate, where win or lose, you KNOW you just watched a debate with Christopher Hitchens.
A number of other names spring to mind, such as Daniel Dennet. But, again, no one has that formidable style of debate and discourse that while informative and eloquent, was quite simply damned entertaining.
Or, just possibly, this question is not one that needs answering. Perhaps the works of the man are enough to speak for him, even in death. Possibly, his views, will continue to persuade and entertain and maybe even bring about the change he so radically desired. For those of us touched in some way by this man’s mind, we are changed. We are all quite simply a bit more skeptical, a bit more biting, a bit more barbed and a bit more pissed off about the dangers and bullying of religious legacy and dogma.
Thanks Christopher, for sharing yourself with the world.
“Whether you agree or disagree with anything he does or says, he is utterly incapable of ever being boring.” – Peter Berkowitz